Youngmans Restaurant

Youngmans Restaurant features as stop five in the Edible Leeds trail. Librarian Helen Skilbeck takes a closer look at the history of the restaurant and the family behind the name.

Gerald Priestland famously called Leeds “the intellectual capital of fish and chips” – and he had a point, with the town’s love of the dish developing so rapidly after the arrival of the first fish and chip shop around 1881 that there were said to be around 800 such shops across the city by 1909. Probably the most well-known in the city centre was Youngmans, named for proprietor Henry Robert Youngman.

Youngman’s, New Briggate, 1944.

Youngman was born in London in 1861 and lived next to a fish shop. Originally working in the woodwork trade as a cabinet maker, he moved to Leeds when he was 21. He set up his first fish shop in Hunslet in 1885. The 1891 census shows him to be living at 63 Whitehouse Street in Hunslet, along with his wife Elizabeth and children Herbert, Walter, Frank, Ruth and Henry. His occupation is listed as Fish and Potato Fryer and Dealer with his wife listed as his assistant.

1891 Census showing the Youngman family.

Finding success in Hunslet, Youngman moved to increasingly larger premises and in 1914 opened his first restaurant on Lower Headrow providing fish and chips with tea, bread and butter. With seating for 150 patrons, Youngman’s was described by one American visitor as “the most up-to date and efficient of its kind.”

The widening of the Headrow saw the restaurant move again to New Briggate in 1928. This advertisement boasts that there is now seating ‘for yourself and 299 others’. It goes on to say ‘a visit to Youngmans will convince you of the delightful furnishings, of the service, speed and courtesy of the staff, and of the hundred and one little details, so well thought out, which go to make a really pleasurable repast’. The advertisement also give patrons the option to use their ‘special wrapping’ for those wanting to take their food home with them.

Advertisement for Youngman’s from Yorkshire Evening Post, 26 February 1934

Henry Robert Youngman died on 6 April 1930 on his 65th birthday and was buried in Harehills Cemetery.

National Probate Calendar entry for Henry Robert Youngman.

His sons Walter and Henry continued to run the Leeds restaurant as well as a Wholesale Fish Merchants at Billingsgate, Hull but in 1932 this partnership was formally dissolved. Walter continued with the Hull business and Henry with Youngmans restaurant in Leeds. Henry would go on to become heavily involved in the National Federation of Fish Friers and later would become its President 1936-1943. Henry died in 1946 at the age of 56 but the business continued to thrive. Later moving to premises on Queen Victoria Street off Briggate, Henry’s only child, Sylvia and her husband William Bettison ran Youngmans until it closed in 1989.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Robert Thomas says:

    I remember going to Youngman’s as a special treat. Birthdays and the like. The restaurant had a kind of faux Tudor feel to it. The quality was good and you got a plate of bread and butter with the slices cut diagonally. This was high living for a Seacroft boy. Posh !

  2. Charles Stones says:

    Did they also have a restaurant in Harrogate please

    1. Hello,
      We’ve checked our collections and cannot find any reference to there being a branch of Youngman’s in Harrogate. However, we do mainly specialise in Leeds local history, so you might want to also ask at Harrogate library:
      Best wishes,
      Leeds Libraries

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.